The Historical Journey of Sports in India

Sports have been a constant and significant part of human existence. They allow us to channel our emotions, build courage, and embrace our vulnerabilities. They not just imbibe within us the virtue of empathy but also teach us about team spirit and collaboration. 

The forms and manners of sports might have seen a shift with time but the history of sports in India goes back to the Vedic era and is believed to be as old as 8000 years. In early India, games were a lot about the development of the physique, the art of offence and defence as well as a kind of recreation. 

From the time Indian Vedic history is recorded, the relationship between the Guru (teacher) and his student has been an integral part of the history of Indian sports. People were fond of swinging and a number of courtyard games like” Hide and seek” and “Run and catch” were played. The Mahabharata also mentions games and gymnastics like wrestling, playing with balls, hide and seek, chasing animals, etc. 

Great Universities like Takshashila and Nalanda have a sports history, too. Takshashila was famous for military training, wrestling, archery, and mountain-climbing. In Nalanda, swimming, breathing exercises, and yoga formed an integral part of the curriculum. Harshavardhana, of the Gupta dynasty, was a great sportsman, and Narasimha Mamallah, the Pallava ruler, was a great wrestler. Archery was also popular among the women during this period, as can be seen from the Ahichhatra images. In Manasollasa, Someshwara writes at length about bharashram (weight lifting), bharamanshram (walking), and mall-stambha, a peculiar form of wrestling.

The Mughal emperors were keen hunters of wild animals and avid patrons of sports, especially wrestling. The Agra Fort and the Red Fort were the popular venues of many wrestling bouts, in the times of Emperor Shahjahan along with an impressive range of sports activity and sports venues in the city during this period.

With the conquest of the British, came the great game of Cricket. The entire history of cricket in India and the sub-continent as a whole is based on the existence and development of the British Raj via the East India Company. Post-independence India also witnessed an emergence of sports like Football, Hockey, and Athletics. The mass appeal might not have reached as much as that of cricket, but the awareness about more and more sports has constantly expanded in the country as India gained a name in many international events. From being looked at as a way of recreation and leisure, sports emerged as a mainstream profession with a variety of games to be explored.

At present, apart from participating in championships at a global level across different sports, India has also seen the coming of various leagues of its own like the Indian Premier League (IPL) for cricket, Indian Super League (ISL) for Football and the Pro-Kabaddi League which has provided a platform to showcase their talent with a promising future of India’s sports talent.